September 19, 2012

The Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center held a discussion on September 19 about Georgia’s upcoming parliamentary elections with IRI Eurasia director Stephen Nix, associate director at the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University Dr. Cory Welt, Atlantic Council executive vice president Damon Wilson, and former US Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia Ken Yalowitz. Ross Wilson, director of the Patriciu Eurasia Center, moderated the discussion. 

Georgia’s election takes place on October 1. The contest has boiled down to one between President Saakashvili’s United National Movement and the newly-formed Georgian Dream Coalition put together by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. The competition between these two camps has enlivened the country’s electoral landscape and made for sharp campaigning on both policy and personal grounds. The discussants focused on the electorate, the campaign, the context in which the election takes place, and what to expect.

The latest Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center Issue Brief, “Georgia’s Polarized Political Landscape on the Eve of Elections,” by Assistant Director Laura Linderman and Director Ross Wilson reviews the state of play and key issues in the country’s October 1 parliamentary elections.

Steve Nix is the Eurasia regional director for IRI. He oversees programs in Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldavia, Russia, and Ukraine. Previously, he served for two years as senior democracy specialist at the US Agency for International Development and as legal counsel to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Ukraine and Russia. Mr. Nix is a specialist in political party development and judicial and legal reform in the former Soviet Union.

Dr. Welt is associate director and professorial lecturer of international affairs at IERES at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. At IERES, he co-directs the program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia (PONARS Eurasia) and teaches courses on post-Soviet Eurasian politics and security. He is also currently an adjunct fellow at the Center for American Progress. Dr. Welt has written articles on conflict resolution, transborder security, and political change. He was previously associate director (2007-09) and director (2009) of the Eurasian Strategy Project at Georgetown University and deputy director and fellow for the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2003-07).

Damon Wilson is executive vice president of the Atlantic Council. From 2007 to 2009, Mr. Wilson served as special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council. Mr. Wilson has also served at the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq as the executive secretary and chief of staff; at the National Security Council as the director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European affairs; and as deputy director in the Private Office of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. Prior to serving in Brussels, Mr. Wilson worked in the US Department of State in various positions and served in Rwanda with Save the Children. He is a graduate of Duke University and completed his graduate studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs.

Ambassador Yalowitz retired from the US Department of State in 2001 after thirty-six years as a career diplomat and member of the Senior Foreign Service. He served twice as a US ambassador: to the Republic of Belarus from 1994 to 1997; and to Georgia from 1998 to 2001. He is the recipient of the Ambassador Robert Frasure Award for Peacemaking and Conflict Prevention. Following his diplomatic career, Ambassador Yalowitz was director of Dartmouth College’s Dickey Center for International Understanding from 2003 to 2012.